Business Recorder | February 28, 2007 – After consulting with legal advisers, Sindh Chief Minister Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim on Tuesday declared that 300 islands, including Dingi and Bhandar (Bodha Island) were the property of Sindh. “The national as well international laws support our contention, therefore, I declare ownership of Sindh over these Islands,” he said.
Talking to electronic-media after holding meeting with former federal law minister Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, advocate; former Sindh law minister Justice E. Abdul Qadir Halepota, and Dr Amjad Bukhari at the Chief Minister House here, Arbab Rahim said: “Such issues used to develop between the center and the provinces, therefore, there was no need to approach the court, however, if required, wewould certainly do it.”
“We have consulted with our legal experts and they have unanimously opined that all islands seen above the sea level were provincial property while those submerged in the sea were federal property,” the chief minister said.
He said the Sindh government had allowed the Port Qasim Authority (PQA) to use these islands only for operational purpose and not sell them. “If the PQA wanted to make investment at these islands, it would be only at the terms and conditions set by the Sindh government,” he asserted.
To a question, Dr Arbab said belonging to a ruling party does not mean not to raise voice for the rights of province. “It is part of my responsibility,” he added. To another question, he said the railway land case was something different. That land was also granted to railway about a century back by the Sindh government, while the land to Port Qasim Authority was sold at Rs 10,000 per acre, but that did not include the islands, he added. He said the PQA has no documentary evidence about the sale of islands.
Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, the author of 1973 Constitution, on this occasion, said the islands were property of Sindh and the federal government has no right over it. The federal government owns only that land, which is granted to it by the province.
He said: “We have given the decision after examining all the laws, including Constitution, provincial laws, Sindh Revenue Act, Water Law, 1976, etc. Pirzada said Sindh is rightful to claim its ownership over all these islands and even the unclaimed land wherever it may be.
He said former East Pakistan was part of Pakistan before 1971 and that part of Pakistan had thousands of islands, but the then-federal government never claimed its ownership on them. Justice E. Abdul Qadir Halepota said under the Article 172 of the Constitution, these islands were property of the Sindh government.
To a question, he said if any MoU had been signed for these islands, it has no legal status. However, being legal consultants, have no concern with any MoU, and the federal and provincial governments have to resolve that matter.
As far as right of property is concerned, it is Sindh that owns these islands, he categorically stated. Dr Amjad Bukhari explained the Continental Share, saying under the clause 2 of Article 172 of 1973 Constitution, all the surfaces emerging out of the sea fall under the ownership of provincial government. Provincial Law Secretary, Member Land Utilisation Board of Revenue, Sindh, Special Secretary (LU), BoR and other officials were present.